Doc Sollod decides to shut the doors on his corner drugstore

Jacques Kelly

November 08, 1990|By Jacques Kelly

In July 1942, Sylvan Sollod borrowed money from an uncle, bought a South Baltimore drugstore and moved in upstairs.

And now, Doc Sollod has decided he's worked long enough. His one-man pharmacy, at Fort Avenue and Webster Street, has been sold. It will be converted into a beauty parlor and ice cream store.

Doc Sollod arrived here when South Baltimore and Locust Point hummed with around-the-clock shifts. World War II defense workers built and repaired ships around the harbor. The Fort Avenue streetcar passed his front door seemingly every three minutes. One window of the drugstore was filled with photographs of local servicemen. Doc Sollod needed ration coupons for the sugar to make his own flavorings for the lemon phosphates and cherry Cokes he sold at the fountain.

There's been many an ammonia Coke, Uncle Willie cigar, Archie comic book and balsa wood toy glider sold at Sollod's. And it was Doc Sollod's personal style of pharmacy that helped sales.

"I always believed that as a pharmacist you personally handed every prescription to a customer, then discussed their trouble and explained to them how to take it," the 79-year-old, gentlemanly pharmacist said.

"In those days, people thought nothing of rapping on the back door at 3 in the morning to tell me they didn't have use of their bowels and could I give them something. That was the way it was when you lived upstairs," Doc Sollod said.

Besides those predawn doses of castor oil, neighbors also patronized the store's surviving marble fountain and used its public telephones. In that era, not every home had a phone and those that did often had annoying party lines. The fountain hasn't worked for some years now, but, when it did, the Eat-It-All ice cream cones, dusted with jimmies, were big sellers.

"We couldn't have made it without the soda fountain; it was the busiest part of the store," recalled Marian Sollod, Doc's wife for the past 54 years. "On a hot summer night, before air conditioning, there would be a line formed while people waited for something cold to eat or drink."

"I wore a big smock behind the soda fountain," she said. "Nobody could even tell when I was pregnant. They'd be surprised when I had a new son."

The couple raised three sons at the store but moved to another home when living conditions upstairs became too crowded. The pharmacy's low-ceilinged basement became a repository for 80 years' worth of filed prescriptions. Compound recipes to cure coughs, cramps or dyspeptic stomachs, beginning in 1909, are stored here. The small slips of paper have been spiked on long pieces of coat-hanger wire hung from the basement's wooden ceiling.

In 1909, South Baltimore physicians Hammerbacher, Doyle, Cole, Erkenbrack, Streett, Hawkins, Turlington, Waldschmidt, Franks, O'Donnell, Scheidt, Strauss, Campbell and Pirosh all wrote prescriptions at the store, then known as Marmor's Pharmacy.

During Prohibition, from 1919 to 1933, a prescription was necessary to legally purchase liquor and wine. Federal rules required that a physician sign an engraved form that had to be countersigned by the pharmacist, when a patient bought wine or liquor from a drugstore. These forms, which federal revenue agents could ask to inspect, are also stored in the basement.

The Sollods have asked the city Museum of Industry, a neighbor on Key Highway, if it wants any of the shop's materials.

A while back, it seemed like every corner in Baltimore's old neighborhoods once had a drugstore like Doc Sollod's.

It was the place where you caught up with the neighborhood news, perused magazines you ultimately did not buy and indulged in a double-dip of Hendler's strawberry ice cream for 10 cents.

Emma Thomas, who has worked behind the counter at Doc Sollod's since 1949, is as much a part of the store as is Doc himself.

"It's been a wonderful place to work," Thomas said. "The Sollods have treated me like their own family."

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